It’s not usually my job to do the tips around here but since I’m keen on recycling and my friends and family, with more than a hint of sarcasm, call me the eco-warrior, I’ve decided to match Mo’s tip with one of my own:  plastic bottles are not trash.

That’s the slogan on the side of the collection skip at the local tip, which we’ve been visiting regularly, depositing bags of plastic, including bottles and lots and lots of bottles of the glass variety, an inevitable consequence of a load of wine drinkers visiting an area awash with vineyards, cellar doors and wine shops selling at cellar door prices.  If people are going to put all that hard work and expertise into producing something delicious, it would be rude for a visitor not to have a taste.

We were directed to our particular tip by a woman at the Saturday market who helps local women make a living from old plastic bags.  The women crochet them into baskets of all shapes and sizes and it’s hard to believe that the lovely stuff they produce started out as rubbish.  The Plastic Project aims to transform trash into treasure, gives the women an income and any excess goes towards a feeding programme for disadvantaged children.

The Plastic Project makes good use of all those carrier bags we used to throw away willy-nilly.

One of the things I love is how endlessly creative people are here, with artists and crafters making use of anything and everything that comes to hand.  You’ll find bracelets and earrings (no, I haven’t added to my collection yet) made from safety pins; marvellous, multi-coloured heads of rhino, elephant and kudu made from drinks cans; place mats made from old crisps packets; giraffes made from papier-mâché and painted in gaudy colours; not forgetting the amazing jewellery made from little pieces of ostrich egg, painstaking work to the outside eye.

We had a road trip before this week’s golf and headed east for a couple of days, along part of the Garden Route.   We stayed at the very different towns of Oudtshoorn and Knysna, getting some idea of just how vast and varied the country is but always with mountains, mountains everywhere.  We passed through George, Ernie Els territory and saw the signs to the fabled Fancourt and to George GC, one of the oldest courses in the country.

There was no room for golf clubs on this jaunt but we had brought our bathers and had a dip in the Indian Ocean at Victoria Bay on the stunning (that word again) coastline just south of George.  On the way home we made a stop at Mossel Bay, where everyone assumed we’d come off one of the cruise ships.  How could they have known that Mo would rather walk the length of Africa than spend time on a boat, no matter how grand and stable?  It’s all she can do to get on the Holyhead to Dublin ferry and she will NEVER, EVER, EVER set foot on the Scillonian again, having had to take it from Penzance to the Isles of Scilly because it was too foggy to fly from Land’s End.

Anyway, back to the golf.  We did see a sign to Mossel Bay GC, whose most famous son is Louis Oosthuizen, Open champion in 2010.  He’s also been runner-up in all four major championships, perhaps not the Grand Slam he’d dreamed of but quite a feat nonetheless. We gave a wave and carried on.

We hadn’t been watching any television or listening to the radio, so we were shocked to see charred bush and lots of smoke as we approached the Franschhoek Pass, a few spectacular miles from our digs.

The smoke from the forest fires in the hills above Franschhoek. They’ve been burning for several days now.

There were helicopters trying to douse the flames and fire fighters trying to cope with difficult terrain and fires that were hard to get at.  Families of frightened baboons gathered at the side of the road and a couple of the babies were lucky to dive out of the way of a truck negotiating the bends at speed.  The driver gave a blast on his horn and the baboons all survived that encounter at least.  The heat and the wind have made it difficult to control the fires and there’s a red halo around the peaks at night.

So far, in the town, life goes on, albeit with a wary eye towards the hills and the smell of smoke in our nostrils.

Golf of the week was at Pearl Valley, where one of our number was making her debut.  Mo was hors de combat because of her back and Gillian took the money with a spectacular birdie three at the 8th, our 17th hole.  A warning to all those looking to take her on at Castle Stuart this summer – make sure you get plenty of shots.  We were just sorry that Geoffrey Boycott, whom we’d bumped into at the halfway house and who had given us the benefit of his advice, was not there to see the coup de grace.

Pam playing her first shot at Pearl Valley on a cool morning.


Gill, eagle-eyed, lining up a putt at picturesque Pearl Valley.